Detective, police chief sued over alleged wrongful arrests
February 19, 2010 – By Jason Riley – The Courier-Journal
Two people who claim they were wrongfully arrested by Louisville Metro Police Detective Crystal Marlowe have filed a lawsuit against her, accusing the detective of lying in court and coercing false identifications from witnesses.
The lawsuit, which also names Chief Robert White, was filed Friday in Jefferson Circuit Court, alleging Marlowe acted intentionally and with reckless disregard when she arrested and jailed Tiffany Washington and Rodshaud White in robbery cases.
Charges were eventually dropped against both Washington and White.
Chief White, according to the suit, was negligent in his supervision and retention of Marlowe, who has been a police officer since 1997 and a detective for about three years.
Ryan Vantrease, an attorney for Washington and White, said litigation of the lawsuit would expose a “complete breakdown of LMPD’s internal protections” and “what appears to be the shocking failure” of the department to protect the public from one of its own officers.
“How she picked them out … it’s beyond belief,” said John DeCamillis, whose firm is representing Washington and White. DeCamillis said he has been approached by two defense attorneys who have clients with pending cases involving Marlowe who are interested in joining the suit, which seeks unspecified damages and a jury trial.
Claims made in filing a lawsuit present only one side of the case.
A spokesman for police said Chief White could not discuss pending litigation. Marlowe has asked The Courier-Journal, through the department, to not try and contact her anymore, saying she would not be speaking with the newspaper.
But earlier this month, Marlowe, 36, told the newspaper that she had done nothing wrong, and that she considered herself to be “one of the more diligent detectives we have.”
Last week, Marlowe was stripped of her law-enforcement responsibilities and temporarily reassigned to a job in crime prevention after coming under scrutiny for missed court appearances and questionable arrests. She also is not allowed to work an off-duty job providing security on Fridays at the National City Bank branch at Fourth and Oak streets in Old Louisville.
The action was taken five months after police began investigating Marlowe and days after The Courier-Journal reported that she has accused at least a dozen defendants — many of them juveniles — of crimes they did not commit.
The newspaper found that some defendants could not have been guilty of the offenses with which they were charged because they were already in jail or had other strong evidence of their innocence. In other cases, Marlowe arrested suspects based on identifications that victims later said they never made.
In April, 2008, Marlowe charged Washington, a University of Louisville student, with robbing a West Hill Street apartment on Dec. 22, 2007, assaulting a woman and stealing jewelry and a flat-screen television. But during questioning, Washington produced pictures, telephone records, receipts, video and eyewitness testimony that showed she was in Henderson County, 130 miles away, on the night of the robbery, according to the suit.
“Even though Tiffany Washington was not in Jefferson County … and did not have a criminal history, her photograph inexplicably ended up in a photo pack used by” Marlowe, according to the suit.
While Marlowe said Washington was identified by a victim, the suit claims Washington did not fit the suspect’s description and Marlowe “knew she was procuring a false identification.”
“There was absolutely no evidence suggesting Tiffany Washington was responsible for the crime,” according to the suit.
Washington was arrested April 17, 2008, and spent five days in jail before her $50,000 cash bond was reduced to an amount she was able to post.
In May 2008, a grand jury declined to indict her. Although grand jury proceedings are secret, court records show that Marlowe was the only witness who appeared.
Police declined an open records request to provide the newspaper with reports, e-mails, interview transcripts and other information about the Washington case because it is under internal review. The department’s internal inquiry into Marlowe’s conduct was initiated in September after Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Paul Richwalsky brought his concerns about her to Maj. David Ray, commander of the special investigations division.
In January 2009, Marlowe arrested Rodshaud White on charges he entered a home on Baroness Avenue a month earlier and robbed the occupant at gunpoint. Marlowe said White was picked out of photographs she had shown the victim.
The suit claims Marlowe convinced a witness to identify White and the detective allegedly provided false testimony in court, leaving White incarcerated for more than two months.
The case was dismissed last Jan. 11 on the motion of Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David Scott. Scott said in an interview that as the case unfolded, he became convinced that White was not involved in the crime.
The suit does not mention a second arrest by Marlowe involving White, a case involving a March 2009 home robbery in which the detective testified that a victim identified White, then 15.
But in an interview with The Courier-Journal and in court testimony, Tyler Deeb, the victim, said that he had never made a positive ID of White or another man Marlowe had arrested, noting that he never got a good look at either defendant.
White’s case was dismissed in juvenile court for lack of evidence.
The suit also alleges that Washington and White suffered “severe emotional distress” and were defamed by Marlowe when she claimed they were responsible for felonies “without a factual basis and in reckless disregard for the truth.”
Reporter Jason Riley can be reached at (502) 584-2197